Mar 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm #1300150
@anztLocale: Victoria, Australia
I've somehow accidentally volunteered myself to run some winter camping trips for an informal hiking group I (sorta) help run. The group will be around six-ten people, none of whom have winter camping experience as far as I know (although I've camped with them in summer and shoulder seasons prior).
Obviously, this makes me a bit nervous about taking people out. I'm proposing to have them sign a waiver, and also take them on a car-camping trip first so they can test if their gear will withstand cold prior to taking them on a proper winter trip. In terms of actual winter trips (snow etc), I will make the first one a car camping trip near a hut with a fireplace inside it, in case of emergency (that way, we can bring firewood).
However, to give me peace of mind, I am planning on getting the group to fill out a questionnaire prior to even taking them on a the test trip. I am perfectly comfortable with denying someone a place on the trip if I think they don't have the right skills or gear.
I would like you help in determining which questions to ask, please. Currently, I have thought of the following:
1) Have you ever been camping or hiking in winter?
2) What season rating is your tent? Have you taken it out in winter before? Do you know alternative pitching techniques (e.g., use of 'deadmen' in the snow)?
3) What is the season/R rating of your sleeping pad? Have you taken it out in winter temperatures before?
4) What is the comfort rating of your sleeping bag? How are you intending to supplement your bag if it is not warm enough? If it is a down bag, are you confident you can keep it dry?
5) What type of stove are you proposing to use? Does it work in cold temperatures? Have you ever melted snow in a hiking stove before?
6) What types of clothing are you planning on taking, and how many layers? If your gear gets wet, how are you planning on dealing with this?
7) In the event of an emergency (e.g., injury or hypothermia), would you be willing to help out/lend excess gear/share a tent?
What else should I be asking, please?
AnnaMar 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm #1962860
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
Anna, I started leading snow camping trips over thirty years ago, so I am somewhat familiar with the situation. For one thing, your questions make sense to us, but I doubt that many beginners will be able to answer them effectively. I mean, the average beginner either doesn't own a tent at all or else if they do own one they have no idea of ratings.
It might be speedier to state what your expectations are. If you tell them that their sleeping bag ought to fluff up to a total thickness of 5 inches, then that means something. If they have a tent and they don't know much about it, maybe they can send a web link with photo to you, and you can help them decide if it is worthy or not.
Similarly with stoves. They may not know much about ratings. If they don't have winter experience, then they won't know how cold the stove will operate. They may forget to bring fuel.
One thing that used to work out nicely is to arrange for a hot water commissary. That means that you and some trusted helper bring your good hot stoves and cook pots, and you produce hot water for everybody to use. Let the others help in the kitchen, and let them bring their own stoves if they must. Otherwise, too many will have gear there that is just a mess. You could also plan a central commissary, but that takes a lot of work.
"What types of clothing are you planning on taking, and how many layers? If your gear gets wet, how are you planning on dealing with this?"
They won't answer that. They don't know. Instead, make some general recommendations and then let them sort it out. Tell them what the expected cold temperature will be.
–B.G.–Mar 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm #1962880
@sam_smillieLocale: central canada
Those are good questions Anna. I think bob is right about the guidelines. you could incorporate guidelines/checklist to help you decide if people are going to be prepared also. Yes/no type questions.
-do you have a sleeping bag rated to at least -15C? (or whatever temperature you think is appropriate)
-do you have a sleeping pad or combination of pads rated to at least R4? (or whatever you think is appropriate)
-do you have wool socks?
-do you have waterproof pants and jacket (shell)
-do you have an insulating layer for your legs and your torso?
-do you have liner gloves and insulated mitts?
-do you have a liquid gas/inverted canister stove?
-do you have camp booties?
-do you have a four season tent? (personally i don't think these are necessary in most conditions, but up to you)
This way when people answer a couple questions with 'no' you can follow up and see if they will be able to make it work other ways but also politely tell others who answer most/all questions with a no that they wouldn't have a good time with their current equipment.
And yeah, the car camping trial run is a great idea.Mar 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm #1963554
@tjaardLocale: Minnesota, USA
About the waiver, I'd talk to a local lawyer.
About the questionnaire:
I'd say the people who know what r value and sleeping bag ratings mean, don't need the questionnaire. Inches of thickness is better. Same with pads.
We can assume that if they are inexperienced they will not have made dead men or melted snow.
And just ask what kind of footwear they are bringing.
I would suggest making a gear list with item categories and having them fill that in and return it to you, then you can check the items they chose.
May I ask what kind of group this is?
Is it a group of friends from your trail running club then that's quite different than a group of at risk youth.
The point here being, how independent are they? How skilled in backpacking? How much leadership are you expected to provide?Mar 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm #1963563
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
Nobody has said anything about first aid. As a leader, do you have the necessary first aid training? On a winter trip, a lot of first aid is actually preventing a mild problem from becoming a major problem. Hypothermia comes to mind. Skin burns happen when people are using stoves in unfamiliar situations. I've seen some really nasty cases of sunburn during winter trips.
–B.G.–Mar 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm #1964388
@anztLocale: Victoria, Australia
Thanks for your comprehensive and considered responses! I have addressed some specific comments below.
Bob: very good point. Although they are all experienced summer hikers, a number of them will have little technical knowledge of things like R-ratings – I hadn't even considered this. The hot water commissary is also a good idea (although I will be encouraging them to bring as much water as possible, given it is a car camping trip).
Samuel: also some great questions/tips. A good run-up time sounds like it would be pretty handy, as then people can see if they can borrow or buy some more gear.
Tjaard: I'm not too worried about the waiver situation due to local legal conditions (MUCH less litigious than the US), the fact that it's (basically) a bunch of mates, and the fact that I have legal training. But I'll keep it in mind! A gear list sounds like a good idea. It's a group of friends from a hiking/camping club, so I know they've all got their heads well screwed on, and that they are able to summer camp. They should be fairly independent. The only issue is that they haven't camped in properly cold/snowy temperatures before.
(Edit: I know they have tents such as the Big Agnes Seedhouse UL, etc. But to me, without a good deal of knowledge to back it up, it's not appropriate for winter conditions. By 'winter' conditions, I'm talking about Australian conditions, which are not particularly severe compared to where I grew up in NZ, but can still get snow on the ground, temperatures to about -10C, and strong winds. As an aside, they all think I'm absolutely crazy for using tarp/tents in the summer hehehe.)
Bob (again): yes, I am trained in First Aid – in fact, I used to teach it to others! But good reminder – I can see who else is trained as part of my questionnaire.
AnnaMar 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm #1964428
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
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